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arrival. with hertz gold plus rewards, you skip the counters, the lines, and the paperwork. zap. it's our fastest and easiest way to get you into your car. it's just another way you'll be traveling at the speed of hertz. diplomacy with venezuela, north korea, syria, and iran? it makes dinner with republicans downright enjoy. it's wednesday, march 6th, and this is "now." joining me today on this power wednesday, new york city
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deputy mayor howard wolfson, nbc news foreign correspondent ayman mohyeldin fresh from cairo, msnbc contributor and former white house press secretary fresh from washington, robert gibbs, and msnbc political analyst and former rnc chairman, the notorious michael steele. earlier today, venezuelans flooded the streets to mourn the death of hugo chavez. the accusations over his death have already begun. namely, blame someone else, preferably, the united states. yesterday vice president nicolas maduro took to the air waves to accuse two american diplomats to destabilize. also the cancer that killed chavez was an assassination plot by his enemies. absurd, we definitely, definitively, reject it. the accusations would have made
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chavez proud. he was expert at rallying support for his political objectives. here is chavez speaking before the u.n. in 2006 following an address made by george w. bush. >> translator: yesterday, the devil came here. right here. right here. and it smells of sulfur still today. the president of the united states, the gentleman to whom i refer to as the devil, came here. >> chavez literally demonized america, moammar gadhafi, mahmoud ahmadinejad. despite the news today is one man down, their work continues. yesterday, north korea threatened to break its 50-year truce with south korea after the
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u.s. and china proposed strict new sanctions on pyongyang. secretary kerry responded to the threat. >> rather to threaten to abrogate and threaten to move in another direction, the world would be better served if he would direct his people and make a decision himself to engage in a legitimate dialogue and legitimate negotiations. >> but if the past is any precedent, sane dialogue and earnest negotiations are tough things to come by when you're a dictator in troubled waters. robert, we have seen dramatic changes around the world in terms of dictators and dictatorships falling. but i guess my question is, as someone who's worked inside the white house, which is worse, the dictator or the void that is left after he or, i guess, she falls? >> i think it's a bit of both. i mean, look, incidentally, i'm riding up on the train yesterday and sitting next to a reporter who says this statement came out
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about them kicking these two diplomats out and blaming the united states for causing cancer. i literally said, it must mean they will soon announce his death. five minutes later, she says, oh, my god, hugo chavez died. you've got this well-worn, tired, tattered dictator in south america playbook that really keeps the entire region, or i should say most of the region, back from enjoying the growth in the global economy, except for places like columbia or brazil, fast moving, fast growing. the rest of these countries are held back by dictators that seem more stuck in the '50s or '60s than they do ready to bring their populations into the 21st century. >> incidentally, if the u.s. could give people cancer, back when they were trying out exploding cigars on fidel castro in the '60s, one would think
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they'd work that too. as our resident foreign scholar here, the question is how much can america get rid of ties, given who is sort of second in command here, but in terms of making better or more effective outreach to the venezuelan people, and i would say this broadly speaking, america is in a tough place now, the world is in flux, there's an anti-american sentiment, especially in the middle east, what's the most important thing for america to do now given the changing sands in foreign policy? >> that's a tough question. i'm not sure if i'm in a position to advise on that part of the world, but in a place like venezuela, when you have a person who dominates the political landscape, it's hard for the u.s. to play with other players. venezuela is a divided country right now, there is an
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opposition, but they've been p suppressed and oppressed. on the one hand, it reaches out to the opposition, sometimes called the kiss of death. as soon as the opposition reaches out and meets with the u.s., it becomes exactly what the main party wants, which is to project the opposition as somehow collaborating with the u.s., chavez and his supporters. it's a very difficult position. however, it's a principle issue, which is to promote the values the u.s. wants to promote over the individuals, over the parties, that may emerge on the political scene. they are going to have elections in 30 days. chavez won by a significant margin. >> through some arm twisting. >> not free and fair elections, but there is an opposition there the u.s. can certainly foster, if not at least encourage and support from a distance. >> we've seen -- the president has approached, or embraced, something that is, i think, euphemistically turned -- i
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won't say leading from behind, but not going it alone, as it were. what's happening on north korea is remarkable, given the fact the chinese is signing off on these sanctions, howard. we have a lot of ties economically on how much debt they own, but the question of human rights and global stability is often a place where we are at odds with the chinese. i think what we're seeing today is fairly remarkable, given china's, you know, previous intransigence on the issue. what do you make of that in terms of the broader sort of american interests with china moving forward? >> well, china clearly has a threshold with regard to north korea and that threshold is being reached. even they probably understand this is not a good situation. the situation is destabilizing and something needs to be done about it. china is tricky. the administration has tried to walk a fine line between understanding they are both a strategic competitor but also an economic, not quite an ally, but
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a country with an enormous amount of business with the united states, and frankly, the president gets a lot of credit for having understood that, not alienated china to the extent we have worsened relationships with them, but also tried to push them with regard to trade and human rights and other issues. the biggest question, of course, in many respects is this issue of cyber attacks or cyber security and what the administration does to push them in the right direction there remains to be seen. >> robert, feels like -- i won't say two steps forward, two steps back, but moving -- these countries are so -- their heels have been dug in for so long. there's so much isolation and other bad actors that have been in ka hoots. it's hard to break apart this jigsaw puzzle. the new york times didn't mince words this morning. they write, the editorial board writes, there is no reason to believe the sanctions on north
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korea will persuade pyongyang. the international community has failed to devise a coherent policy that might reverse or slow the north's efforts to become a full-fledged nuclear state. president obama's efforts have been no more successful than those of president george w. bush. what do you make of that? >> look, there are certain things you can do. there's certain pressure you can put on people, but look, there's the great maps of the korean peninsula at night, right? and lit up is the wonderful city of seoul, korea, and the south. and then the north is completely dark, because they've stepped so far away from anything relating to a civil society that there's a limit, quite frankly, to what you can do. howard is exactly right. when the chinese understand instability most of all in their own neighborhood and when they take that step, it shows you, and i think the chinese can have a big impact if anybody can, on the actions of north korea,
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because they are the big actor over there, and if they say, look, now there's instability that threatens us, that threatens the region as a whole and can spread with the proliferation of long-range missiles all over the world, that gets their attention and, look, that is -- that's what is really important about maintaining that strategic dialogue with china, even as you're pushing them on other issues. >> north korea is not good for business. china is in the business of business. >> doing business with north korea and doing business with bad actors, whether they are in africa, southeast asia, it's a tenuous position given the fact these are very unstable regimes. in north korea, you have refugees flooding across the border. >> china does enormous business in africa. they are willing, clearly, to do business with some pretty bad actors. north korea, as robert just said, you know, at night there
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are no lights there. yes, are they a major trading partner of north korea? absolutely. is it a place they see a lot of opportunity for business? not really. many of the other places they are doing business around the world are much more beneficial to them. >> it's a stability question, i think, more than anything. chinese do not want to be destabilized. michael steele, in terms of the political optics on all this, we have talked about foreign policy and it's not exactly an area of bipartisan agreement, but there's not a huge amount of bipartisan strife, if you will, over foreign policy. i think, a, given the fact the region, there is no obama doctrine, and i think to some degree, there's not a lot of complaint about that, because each actor has to be treated differently. the republicans in the last campaign did not sort of articulate any sort of architecture for foreign policy that was different from that of the president. >> which was not measurably different from his predecessor. >> in the new york city times editorial board. >> status quo, all right.
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i think that's part of this narrative politically that i think gives people, not comfort, but they are not as high level of anxiety, because they are with all the regimes and political players that we've talked about from china to washington, from beijing to washington. there is this consensus of how we move forward together, which is why on this nuclear piece you see china, washington, kind of holding hands, tepidly, but holding hands. >> pinky link is more effective. >> that works, too. that works, too. but to howard's point, the broader reality is this nuclear umbrella which they do not want to see unfold over north korea. so that's a common interest. the economic interest is another common interest. so, these are the threads that kind of bind washington and beijing together as they deal with all these other actors, whether it's in the middle east or else where. >> i will say, though, some part
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of me is not, you know, trying to gun for more ranker in washington, but i do feel like foreign policy has taken a back seat to domestic policy, and that's not to say we don't have big-ticket items on the table. >> when you have no job, you're not worried about another country. you're worried about your own. >> we write the script for one of these segments and you can't talk about all the countries because the list is too long. the president has a mountain of foreign policy on his desk right now, and his ability -- look, everybody's ability to focus on this in a kind of measurable way, which is to say to maybe stop the bloodshed in syria, which has taken tens of thousands of lives is not a priority. >> i thought everything was going to be right for the world when we elected obama. at least that's what i was told. the president's foreign policy doesn't have to go through congress. quite frankly, if it did, we would have foreign policy by sequestration and if you thought the problems mounted on the
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president or any president's desk, try having it all go through congress, what a mess. >> we're going to have much more on the mess at hand. pretty spectacular mess. how many qualifiers can you fit into one statement? uh-oh. ask attorney general eric holder. we're going to discuss the obama administration's ifs, ands, and buts on american drone strikes next on "now." license and registration please. what's this? uhh, it's my geico insurance id card, sir. it's digital, uh, pretty cool right? maybe. you know why i pulled you over today? because i'm a pig driving a convertible? tail light's out.. fix it.
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how does the president's mind work, though? the president that seems so honorable, seems so concerned
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with our rights, seems so concerned with the right not to have your phone be tapped now says he's not concerned with whether you can be killed without a trial? the leap of logic is so fantastic as to boggle the mind. where is the barack obama of 2007? has the presidency so transformed him that he has forgotten his moorings, forgotten what he stood for? >> that was senator rand paul speaking on the senate floor moments ago. he's using the issue of drones to filibuster the confirmation of john brennan for cia director. eric holder testified before the senate judiciary committee this morning. >> the government has no intention to carry out any drone strikes in the united states. it's hard for me to imagine a situation which that would occur here in the united states where the possibility of capture is obviously enhanced, and, as a result, the use of drones is,
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from my perspective, something that is entirely, entirely hypothetical. >> holder had been asked about a letter he sent to rand paul yesterday. holder wrote, it is possible, i suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the constitution for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the united states. or, in short, yeah, probably, maybe. holder also told the committee that while he didn't want to preempt the announcement, the president will speak very soon on drones. >> there is going to be a greater effort of transparency, a number of steps are going to be taken. i expect you'll hear the president speaking about this. >> robert, i imagine it's easier to answer these questions now that you are not standing in the brady briefing room. >> yes. >> i am not one that usually sees -- i won't say eye-to-eye, but understands a rand paul point and sees legitimacy in it,
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but i think he actually -- there is some truth here. and given the very vague wording of that eric holder statement, which is it is possible, i suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance, to me that says the white house has not really figured this whole drone policy thing out. >> or a lawyer wrote that sentence. look, i got into a little k kerfuffle by saying i was not to acknowledge the existence of the drone program, and i did that largely because it's a highly classified, aspects are highly classified. i would never deny its existence, we just wouldn't expand on it. and you could see at that point as a reporter is sitting in the front row reading the article in the paper saying we just killed this guy using a drone, can you talk about, and you say i don't have anything for you on that.
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there's an inherent tension in that that's unsustainable. my guess is on this, and we were joking about this in the green room, i'm not a lawyer. >> you play one on television. >> don't take my legal advice, but my guess is this, they were staking out some legal principle that would have to do with a compelling threat and how they would react to it, but i will say this, i think what rand paul's biggest mistake in this is filibustering the person that can bring the greatest amount of transparency to the drone program and that's actually john brennan. the reason he gave that speech april of last year, which acknowledged the drone program and talked about it is because john understood there was an inherent transparency tension that lessened our confidence in government. and what i think what john wants to do at the cia is take military activities and put them rightly into the pentagon.
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the cia will continue to have a very robust intelligence gathering role, but the military activity of a drone strike will be housed in the pentagon and, thus, providing the ability under law to be more transparent. >> go ahead, michael. >> that still doesn't answer the underlying question. that's all nice bureaucratic organization of the charts, but it still doesn't answer the underlying -- >> i call it the u.s. law. >> that too, but you're not a lawyer. again, the point is how does the government respond to the question of killing united states cities abroad through drones, how does the drone program in its implementation more broadly speaking apply to u.s. citizens, which as you've pointed out, alex, the question answered was a little bit nebulous. that's the legitimate point we need to get to. i get what you're saying about how the cia should handle this
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and the defense department handle that, but the role of the u.s. government in sponsoring a program in which the lives of a u.s. citizen is a question mark in its engagement of foreign policy or national security is a legitimate question. >> just one thing to be clear, this was not a policy that started in january of 2009, right? i know you know that. >> absolutely, and i appreciate you augmenting the bush policy. >> well -- >> i suspect the outcry would be differently if george bush was executing this policy. >> he did execute this policy for several years. >> it's like he's behind you on your shoulder in your ear. >> i'm sure we're going to soon play tape of michael steele as chairman of the rnc saying i can't believe george bush would do these things. >> he does have a point in as far as this has been going on for years and has been a great point of discussion. >> overreaction issue here, from
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looking how drones are used overseas and the overarching question is extrajudicial. that's the term people use, because the use of the drone falls out of the confines of the law in the host country. when we apply to the u.s., that's the fundamental question. the drone in of itself is a tool of law enforcement, it's a tool. but is it being used in the confines of law enforcement, to what extent will it be applied as a tool for those trying to enforce the law and prevent anything from happening. that's where the danger is. we don't have a clear guidance. >> we don't have framework. >> no clarity on whether or not this is happening and what extent it will and when it is applicable. >> howard, i feel you're an invaluable resource because you have piloted a drone, because you were the deputy mayor of new york city and you know very, very well, you understand the threat of terrorism. this is one of those areas where it feels like the technology has gotten far ahead of the sort of
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legal framework, and i would also say americans' ability to sort of moralize this. i think that the idea that an american president could order the extrajudicial killing of an american in america, that there might be a drone over ohio, and set aside the drone, you might order the assassination of an american on american soil without a trial is very, very difficult for people to wrap their heads around. >> it is and it isn't. there's a reason why the most idiosyncratic, most extreme member of the united states senate is the person leading the filibuster here. this is not 40 senators going down to the floor basically raising a hue and a cry, because i think at the end of the day where the president is, where the administration is, is kind of where the american people are on this. we don't really like to talk about it, nobody's going to walk around and say, yeah, drones, and have a parade for a drone, but people do have a sense that we've been attacked, because we have. they have a sense that the threats are ongoing and they are
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real, and they trust that this president, and i think to some extent they trusted the last president, to keep in mind that their job at the end of the day, the most important job they have, is protecting the american people. and, you know, it seems pretty clear to me at the end of the day the president is going to reserve the powers to the executive branch, that he or she thinks it needs in order to prosecute the war against people who want to kill us. i think the american people are more or less okay with that. >> the american people are okay with that, as long as it's going over there. now we're talking about having it here, and that's a different conversation for the american people to have. got to exercise about the patriot act. >> everyone wants to talk about this one. >> that point is important and i humbly disagree briefly because unfortunately the american public is not aware of the drone policies overseas. they are not exposed to drone strikes. they hear the headline of so and so terrorist is being killed, they are often deprived of the
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number of civilians killed. what's going to happen when a drone strike happens in ohio, are you going to accept the same collateral damage as in pakistan when you kill 11 or ten pakistanis to get one terrorist. >> what happens when china has a drone program? let me ask you a question, though. because i think part of the reason this discussion hasn't been as robust as it could have been in the last couple years is because there's been 5:00 presi obama understands civil liberties, right? but the plt even acknowledged a couple months ago before the election, i may not be in office forever and there has got to be some kind of -- >> good news, michael. >> -- there's got to be some kind of rule book here. look, sarah palin was a heartbeat away from overseeing the drone program. i mean, that is -- >> thankfully, 270 electoral votes had a heartbeat.
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>> there will be someone after barack obama. >> absolutely. that's exactly what the president said in the state of the union, that the people of the united states have to have a rationale for what their government does beyond somebody saying it's the right thing to do. and i think that's, look, that's why early in the administration the president discussed the torture memos at the national archi archives. that's why the president, and i want to emphasize this, john brennan has led the entire administration on this into understanding that if we do not give the american people a better legal understanding of why this program operates, how it operates, and provide some transparen transparency, that it will undermine, ultimately, confidence in the decision to -- for its use in that program and overall. it is, i would say, a very, very, very classified piece of
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information. there's a reason i couldn't talk about it, because i would be -- you'd have to do this segment from your local jail. >> we've done that before. not good for ratings. >> i do think, again, everybody, i think, understands there's inherent tension in this and that greater transparency will solve a lot. and look, i happen to think that one of the reasons the attorney general qualified so much is in the united states of america, you know, if you had a law enforcement official here, if you had your police chief here, i think the last option in a little of about 20 would be something like this. you've got, i mean, this is different from a yemen, right? we can't go arrest somebody or surround their house or do the type of things that you could with domestic law enforcement or a s.w.a.t. team in this country if facing an eminent threat. >> he didn't rule it out. to me, at the end of the day,
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you're right, it's probably 25th or 100th on the list of things they would do if they identified somebody meaning to do damage. >> let's hope it's even lower. drone should be, like, 500th on the list. >> if it's on the list, that means it's an actionable item, and at some point in any crisis situation, someone's going to make a decision down that list and get to that point and we want to know what are the steps. >> michael, let's go through -- >> i'm just saying. >> you have a very valid point. i'm just suggesting, remember if torture was a justifiable thing because, and remember the example always was, if somebody was sitting there and they knew that they were minutes away from exploding a bomb, would you torture that person to get that information out of them to stop them, and, again, 25th, 100th on the list. >> argument we heard from the left was no. >> if you had actionable intelligence -- >> and from this administration
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was no. >> we thought it was against our values to do so. >> you take this toy thing from a great distance and kill them. >> i'm suggesting that -- >> what's the difference? >> i'm suggesting there's -- if there's actionable intelligence -- >> torture versus drones. >> torture is something that's -- >> more personal. >> it is not about our values. not about our values. >> i will say we've talked a lot about the domestic aspect here and ayman, unfortunately we have to say good-bye to you, but the transparency, i would argue, also needs to be over the use of drones on foreign soil and you talk about the collateral damage. part of the reason we don't discuss the collateral damage is because we don't have accurate numbers relating to deaths around drone strikes. >> we don't. the drone program is going to have a long-term lasting problems for u.s. foreign policies overseas. it's creating resentment that creates more problems for the united states. it is an exponential growth factor in resentment and that is
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extremely dangerous. i think it can begin with a simple question, the united states as a government would not accept mexico carrying out a drone strike on u.s. soil if there was a drug lord that went into texas and posed a security threat for mexico. the united states has to start dealing with countries in a different way to produce a different result. you can't justify killing one individual at the expense of civilians which at some estimates reached thousands. >> ayman mohyeldin, bringing the truth as usual. great to see you. please, take care of yourself. we hope to hear from you soon and safety. coming up, too little, too late, right on time, or futile to even begin with? president obama plans to break bread with republicans in a bid for compromise, but is crossing the aisle the answer or is it more about just good, old-fashioned partisan dominance? we'll discuss just ahead. zap technology.
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snow quester, snomester. as a massive snowstorm bears down, capitol hill plans to shutdown as it plans to avoid another shutdown. we'll go through the mess and terrible puns next on "now." aw this is tragic man, investors just like you could lose tens of thousands of dollars on their 401(k) to hidden fees. thankfully e-trade has low cost investments and no hidden fees. but, you know, if you're still bent on blowing this fat stack of cash, there's a couple of ways you could do it. ♪
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okay why? more is better than less because if stuff is not le--
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if there is more less stuff then you might want to have some more and your parents just don't let you because there's only a little bit. right. we want more, we want more. like you really like it, you want more. right. i follow you. [ male announcer ] it's not complicated. more is better. and at&t has the nation's largest 4g network. ♪ despite the fact that washington usually relishes any excuse for inaction, snow quester may actually result in some post-sequester movement to break the fiscal deadlock. it will most certainly result in a lot of corny weather-related puns. example a, amid the icy temperatures, president obama is ushering a thaw in relations. the new york times reports, the
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legacy-minded president is forcing him to do something he has largely avoided, personally reaching out to rank and file members of congress. gop senators including roy blunt, tom coburn, susan collins, bob porker, lindsey graham, and rob portman. he'll also dine tonight with 11 republican senators at the jefferson hotel and will travel to capitol hill next week to meet with caucuses in both the house and the senate. so far, the good will is being reciprocated. according to senator lindsey graham, what i see from the president is probably the most encouraging engagement on a big issue since the early days of his presidency. senator majority leader mitch mcconnell is all for daytont. >> frankly, i wish he'd done more of that over the years. we've had, all of us, very limited interaction with the president. he's certainly doesn't have to go through me to call on my
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members, and i'm sure he will, and i encourage him to do so. >> of course, necessity is usually the grandmother of change. despite several weeks of bully pulpit pressure, even the president acknowledged that his hands are tied unless congress decides to cooperate. >> this idea that somehow there's a secret formula or secret sauce to get speaker boehner or mitch mcconnell to say, you know what, mr. president, you're right. we should close some tax loopholes for the well off and well connected in exchange for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts in programs we don't need. you know, i think if there was a secret way to do that, i would have tried it. i would have done it. >> and if the mealtime diplomacy fails, there's always a backup to the back-up plan, win back the house in 2014. as the new yorker notes, a
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fundamental pact of modern political life is the only way to advance a coherent agenda in washington is through partisan dominance. the boring fact of our system is congressional math is the best predictor of a president's success. lyndon johnson's achievements were in reality only a function of the congressional election results. in 1967 and 1968, after he lost 48 democrats in the house, he was a midget. joining the panel now, what an intro there. msnbc contributor and queen bee of the guru.com, joy reid. let's start with the lunch and dinner. bipartisan rose chicken, answer to our dreams, or is this just an optical illusion? >> i don't get it. this is the reason people hate washington. is it really the case only thing members of congress, period, all they need is a hug and a lunch? you know, feed me dinner, treat me like i'm special. president obama's not their mom. why do they need all this love
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and affection to do their job? i find this story so infuriating and annoying. politics is supposed to be adversarial. we have two parties for a reason. i think this narrative and it's partly because it's a processed story we in the media love it too, whether they hate each other, golf together, friends, bffs, look who's christie's friend and not these senators. i find it all annoying. >> okay, shutting the door on compromise, joy reid, ladies and gentlemen. >> do it in a snow metaphor. >> they could shovel snow together maybe. >> robert, let's talk bluntly in so far as we can on camera at how successful the white house strategy around sequester has been. there's some thinking that they sort of overinflated or inflated the effects, the immediate effects of the sequester and this sort of represents, not a 180, but a backing down on the initial strategy, which is to play hardball. now it's about making phone calls to senate republicans and house republicans.
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>> i think this has less to do with the p.r. campaign around sequester and more to do with how do you break the gridlock that has frozen anything that happens in washington. >> frozen. >> totally unwittingly, but how do you break this gridlock so the new normal isn't what we've seen over the past sort of few months? look, i would put an hour on the president's schedule every day, call members of congress, call every member of congress. have a conversation with them. call business leaders. you don't just have to call members of congress, but i think there's nothing that is going to hurt by having these conversations. nothing is going to back this up and maybe what happens is we find a way based on these conversations to break out of this. because i will say, i think betting on an electoral strategy two years from now to break this gridlock is a bit of a deep throw, because we just had congressional redistricting,
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right? most of the states have redistricted to the point where a huge percentage of congress are in wildly safe districts. so, unless there's a big wave election, the new normal that we've seen in sequestration will be what happens for four years, and i think the president realizes that has to be broken. >> and michael steele, to that point, i mean, because of the gerrymandered districts, both parts are implicated in that. mitch mcconnell is going to face a primary challenge, so in reality -- >> it's all good. >> well, i mean, there's not going to be any deal making until 2014 is over. >> you're right. to joy's point there, they are shoveling something this week, and i don't think it's snow. it is something, and it's the usual stuff that they shovel. although i have to admit, i'm glad, to your point, to see the president doing these things, these very overt efforts to
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bring some cohesion or common sense to this conversation. at least he can then, if republicans go back and go, you know, we just don't want to play, don't want to deal with you. look, i tried. i had a mandate coming out of 2012, i sat down, i held my nose, picked up the phone and made the phone calls. i did everything you told me to do, and you still won't find that way around the curve. i don't care if you get to yes. can you get to maybe? can we get to returning the phone call? i take note of what mcconnell says that, you know, you don't have to come to me. mr. president, go to those individual senators. go to the people -- >> please, don't involve me. i have a primary challenge. >> that's a fair point. look at the initial target. i think that's a good starting working group of republicans in the senate who can then take a message back to the rest of the caucus. we'll see how it plays out. i applaud the effort. >> howard, you know, this is
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armchair prognostication, but that's what we specialize in here. how do you think this plays out for the republicans? jonathan chait makes the point this glee around the sequester and supposed win on this is going to be -- they are going to change their tune a few months down the road when the cuts actually start to set in. >> two points. to your first question, this sort of apocalypse now strategy the administration was pursuing on sequester was not successful. people didn't see anything happen so terrible when the sequester began. they've abandoned that. that's a good thing. to joy's point, i couldn't disagree more on that. i think there's every reason if you are negotiating with people across the table, regardless of your ideological differences, to get to know them, what motivates them, have some kind of human relationship that's beyond just what you read about them in the newspaper or what you know about them from what somebody tells you in a briefing paper. i give the president a lot of
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credit. this is overdue. it would be great if he could spend an hour every day just sort of dialing through and talking to people. there's absolutely no downside in getting to know people who you are going to be dealing with and negotiating with. i hope he does more of it. >> i think the country likes to see it. i do think there's something sort of weirdly reassuring. >> very much so. >> like the end of the shawshank redemption. it can all maybe work out. more importantly, i'd like to know what they are eating. if anybody has intel on that, tweet at me. coming up, what's worse than draconian? ask budget man paul ryan. we'll talk mathematical impossibilities and the social safety net just ahead. ent, presh a hairline fracture to the mandible and contusions to the metacarpus. what do you see? um, i see a duck. be more specific. i see the aflac duck. i see the aflac duck out of work and not making any money. i see him moving in with his parents and selling bootleg dvds out of the back of a van. dude, that's your life. remember, aflac will give him cash to help cover his rent, car payments
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if you thought the sequester meant the end of the budget wars in washington, grab a cup of coffee and have a seat. this morning, budget wonder boy paul ryan gave reports a sneak peek of his new budget for 2014, claiming his spoke with president obama this week about, quote, planning for the retirement of the baby boomer generation. but what will that involve exactly? it's unclear, but word on the hill is ryan has been floating a plan that would force medicare cuts on those 56 and older. this morning, politico says ryan is backing down. michael steele, i have begun to feel on some level don't feel bad for paul ryan and his draconian budget, but trying to balance a budget in ten years seems an impossibility. >> at least it's not 40. he's doing it in ten, number one.
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but number two, i think the approach here needs to be one where we do what we're not expected to do, and the first card we always play is cutting those programs that are going to impact people most directly, whether it's seniors, whether it's children, and that taints the narrative from the beginning. let's go and see that budget go into the defense department, go into those areas that are typically off limits for a lot of republicans, but republicans will admit quietly we can make those cuts, number one. number two, i think with respect to his budget is again paul ryan putting out a marker, putting out a starting point, which a lot of folks like you and others will jump on and disagree with, that's fine. but now the senate is proposing and promising a budget. now we'll have something at either end of the polls to work from, hopefully, over the course of the summer if they try to work together a budget. >> why does he always start with the elderly and the poor? there's something about this fixation. the money's in defense. he has this fixation of cutting
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poverty programs and medicare. >> it would be easier if he had revenue in the game. >> exactly. >> put revenue in the game. >> looking generationally. he's not necessarily, as he said over and over again, he's not applying this to those in the system or about to go into the system. he's looking at the 20 year old, 30 year old, 40 year old, who's got this down the road and trying to create an option because the system as it currently is, cannot sustain the population that's going to need to be served. >> i'm not entirely sure this serves the republican party well at the end of the day, robert. >> i think it shows the pressure in their caucus that the ryan budget, which became the centerpiece against him, was too liberal, right, gives you a sense of the politics inside of that caucus as these guys prepare for lunch and dinner with the president. look, nobody that has studied this problem and made a sensible solution has ever done it without including spending entitlements and revenue. if you take one of those things out, it becomes virtually
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impossible. >> if you take out the tomato and lettuce, you have a bacon sandwich. anyway, point is, you need all -- multiple. >> two bacon sandwiches. >> bipartisan bacon sandwiches. thank you for our panel, that's all for "now." see you tomorrow. "andrea mitchell reports" is next. a talking car. but i'll tell you what impresses me. a talking train. this ge locomotive can tell you exactly where it is, what it's carrying, while using less fuel. delivering whatever the world needs, when it needs it. ♪ after all, what's the point of talking if you don't have something important to say? ♪

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NOW With Alex Wagner
MSNBC March 6, 2013 9:00am-10:00am PST

News/Business. Alex Wagner. Forces driving the day's stories. New.

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